friday feast: chatting with jorge argueta about guacamole: a cooking poem

Good News: Award-winning author and poet Jorge Argueta has just published the third book in his delightful bilingual Cooking Poem series!

Jorge first fed us warm and comforting Sopa de frijoles/Bean Soup, followed by a yummy batch of Arroz con leche/Rice Pudding (which I reviewed here), and now he celebrates the singular joy of making guacamole. Yum!

A young girl chef makes guacamole for her parents and two younger siblings — not just any guacamole, mind you, but an especially delicious one that will leave them begging for more. Just as with Jorge’s other cooking poems, everything about the process, from the careful selection of and reverence paid to the utensils and ingredients, to the anticipation of eating and sharing the final product, is seasoned with a generous measure of love, playfulness and magical realism.

credit: Tavallai/flickr

Argueta’s poetic imagination transforms big, beautiful avocados into “green precious stones,” cilantro into “little trees,” the mixing spoon into a tractor scoop. Sensuality abounds in his kitchen — you can just feel the soft, ripe fruit with its slippery pit (“round as a small world”) in your hands, smell the fresh green smell of cilantro, your mouth puckering at the thought of “the sour river of lime,” its juicy juice “that comes like tears.” There is a wonderful sense of empowerment as the girl puts on her special apron, sings and dances around the kitchen, and finally shares what she made all by herself with her family. When was the last time you sang to the salt and viewed cooking as a fun activity capable of renewing your appreciation for everyday things?

I’m thrilled Jorge agreed to answer a few questions about Guacamole especially for Poetry Friday. It’s easy to see why his books have earned so many prestigious awards. He’s beloved by legions of children and continues to inspire budding poets of all ages.

Jorge, congratulations on the release of Guacamole! Please tell us how the Cooking Poem series came about. Are the poems based on your personal recipes?

I have written several cooking poems, so far three have been published, all of these books are very much rooted in my family tradition.

I have the wonderful experience of living in a small town in western El Salvador and in the capital, San Salvador. In the town my family and I would plant corn, beans, tomatoes, squash and other vegetables. In the city they owned a small eatery where popular meals were sold: bean soup, chicken soup, corn tamales, stuffed peppers, eggs, rice and beans, rice pudding, among many other delicious plates and of course guacamole.

I saw poetry all around me. Kitchens are a source of inspiration for me. Here I am surrounded by pots, pans, spoons, plates, cups, tomatoes, garlic, onions, fire and water. I can go on and on and on, everything in the kitchen is pure poetry, sounds, smells, shapes, colors, forms, etc., it is amazing.  Everytime I am writing one of my cooking poems I am transported to both the countryside of El Salvador and to that small, happy popular restaurant in the city of San Salvador.

What is your fondest guacamole memory? Do you remember your first time eating it?

I grew up around these tall and amazing avocado trees.  I would climb them to cut avocados.

The first time I remember eating avocados I ate one in a tree with friends. We would eat them whole, then we would play with the big round seeds.

We would each bring avocados home and make guacamole with our family. I remember our faces shrinking with the lemon, mostly I remember the green avocado laughs printed on our faces.

I like how this particular cooking poem includes instructions for planting the seeds, skins, and peels, continuing the cycle of growth and regeneration. Do you have a vegetable garden? What is your personal food philosophy?

I believe in the great cycle of life, if we teach our children and ourselves to take care of our Mother Earth, we could all contribute to the beauty and love we received from her. I don’t have a vegetable garden at home,  but I have wonderful plants and flowers, I take great care of them, talk and sing to them every morning.

I like to encourage all of us to do all we can to promote the idea of giving back to our beautiful amazing planet. All of my cooking poems encourage children to do that, give back.

Do you like to cook? If so, what is your specialty?

I am blessed, I love foods from all over the world, so far I have not eaten anything I can say I dislike. I enjoy all food, of course I enjoy comfort food that reminds me of home.

I love to cook simple dishes – beans, soups, rice, tamales, eggs and sauces, of course guacamole.

How many avocados did you eat while writing this book? 🙂 Can you offer any tips for those wanting to write cooking poems?

Many, I enjoyed buying them, examining them, smelling them and of course making the guacamole. Before I write my cooking poems, I prepare them. In the case of guacamole and all of my other cooking poems, I enjoyed every step of it. I make sure the children could follow the recipe and enjoy the images of all ingredients and utensils.

A cooking poem is a recipe with images, if some want to try to write a cooking poem I could offer this: pay close attention to your fruits, vegetables, sink, pots and pans, enjoy them, love them, the whole kitchen is a cooking poem.

What is your favorite illustration from the book and why?

I don’t have a favorite one, Margarita Sada did a wonderful job of illustrating the book. If I were to choose one, it would be the one where the children are sliding down a hill on the avocado peel, it reminds me of my friends and I.

Can you tell us what the next Cooking Poem will be about?

I am so happy to announce my next book in the series is Tamalitos, A Cooking Poem. I love this book because it honors corn, this amazing, wonderful looking and holy plant. This one will be illustrated by Domi, another great illustrator from Oaxaca, Mexico. Patricia Aldana, my editor at Groundwood Books, has made a wise choice for this book. I am sure Tamalitos, A Cooking Poem, is going to be a great addition to the series.

I totally agree with Jorge on Margarita Sada’s adorable illustrations — she’s captured the full-out joy of making this simple, healthy recipe with bright colors and whimsical details. Who wouldn’t want to live in a giant avocado house and slide down the table inside a peel?

Here is an excerpt from Guacamole:

Ahora le agregas sal, no mucha.
Cántale a la sal
cuando la agites,
para que como pringuitas
de llovizna blanca
caiga sobre el aguacate verde.

Sal salita de mi salero
échale la sal primero.

Ahora con el tractor de tu cuchara
remueve un poco la carnita verde de los aguacates.
Mueve tu cuchara hacia arriba y hacia abajo.
El aguacate se está poniendo
más blandito.
Se está volviendo guacamole.


Now add salt, not too much.
Sing to the salt
as you shake it
so that little spatters
of white drizzle
fall like rain on the green avocado.

Salt, salty salt from my saltshaker,
salt goes in first.

Now with your tractor spoon
stir up the green avocado flesh.
Move your spoon up and down.
The avocado is getting
It’s becoming guacamole.

Copyright © 2012 Jorge Argueta and Elisa Amado. All rights reserved. 

Holy Guacamole! by tbari 1/flickr

I enjoyed reading the poem aloud in Spanish. I love the lilting musicality of the language, and always feel with bilingual books that I’m getting a delicious two-course meal. How beautiful to taste two flavors, two textures, two linguistic layers at once! I thank Jorge for visiting today and highly recommend that you order this book. I can’t think of a tastier way to celebrate National Poetry Month in April. Muy delicioso!

GUACAMOLE: Un poema para cocinar/A Cooking Poem
written by Jorge Argueta
illustrated by Margarita Sada
translated by Elisa Amado
published by Groundwood Books, 2012
Poetry in Spanish and English for ages 4-7, 32 pp.

Cool themes: cooking, Latino culture, families, skill mastery, ethnic foods, multicultural.
Official Release Date in the U.S.: April 1, 2012
You may order directly from the publisher now, or pre-order via major online booksellers.

♥ Jorge Argueta’s official website.

♥ Cool review of Guacamole by Kerry Clare at Pickle Me This.

♥ Here are the first two Cooking Poem books in the series:

Jone at Check it Out is hosting today’s Poetry Friday Roundup. Slide over on your avocado peel and enjoy all the delectable poems being shared in the blogosphere this week.

Why not make some guacamole this weekend? ☺


This post is also being linked to Beth Fish Read’s Weekend Cooking, where all are invited to share food-related book, cookbook and movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts or quotes, etc.



*Spreads posted by permission, Spanish text copyright © 2012 Jorge Argueta, English text © 2012 Elisa Amado, illustrations © 2012 Margarita Sada, published by Groundwood Books. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2012 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

54 thoughts on “friday feast: chatting with jorge argueta about guacamole: a cooking poem

  1. This is kind of killing me.
    We don’t have a lot of avocados here that are good and plentiful and inexpensive, like we have in California… I grew up eating tons of guac, and here, I’ve had to relearn to eat seasonally and … all of that. It’s been hard. Ridiculously hard, really. I’m already planning for my guacamole and Mexican food gorging when I go home next…


  2. Mexican food has always been one of my favorites. I also lovelovelove guacamole. This is my first time to hear about Jorge Argueta – you had me at ‘magical realism’ – and poems for children at that! I will definitely check his books out from our library. Will pin the book covers in my Pinterest so that I won’t forget. Those luscious guacamole photos are just… divine.


    1. I think you need to get all three of his cooking poem books. It’s such a great series! Am definitely making some guacamole this weekend🙂. Yum.


  3. Wow! I am so hungry for guacamole now! Last weekend, we ate dinner with the kids at a Mexican restaurant where they made guacamole tableside. Even so, I couldn’t get them to try it. Maybe this book would do the trick!


    1. One of Jorge’s wonderful gifts as a poet is the ability to see the beauty in seemingly ordinary things we take for granted. I’ll never look at avocados or limes in quite the same way again.🙂


  4. Read the book, make guacamole together — they’re bound to like it! Stock up on tortilla chips — today just happens to be National Tortilla Chips Day. That is very cool that they make the guacamole right at your table. Wish we had a restaurant like that nearby.


  5. I was sure it was going to be pancakes (or did you do them last week?), but I prefer guacamole. It looks like a fun book — anything to get kids active in the kitchen. Poetry is a bonus!


  6. Yum! What a fabulous blend of topics–cooking and poetry! Great words, whimsical illustrations. Makes my mouth water for guacamole…is the avocado on my windowsill ripe yet?


    1. Love recipe poems; it’s a wonderful structure that works well even if you’re not talking about food. A great combination of a meaningfully ordered list and the transformation that occurs when elements are combined.

      Recipe for a happy Sunday.
      Recipe for romance.
      Recipe for disaster?🙂


  7. I’m so in love with these books, Jama. I’ve already sent the arroz con leche/rice pudding to my daughter (who makes rice pudding often). They are just delightful. My son’s best friend is a chef & prides himself in his guacamole; I wonder what he’d think of this book. I enjoyed the interview & this: “the whole kitchen is a cooking poem.” I think that sums up your blog, right? See how connected people get when food is discussed! Gracias!


    1. You’re definitely a woman after my own heart, Linda. How interesting that your son’s best friend is a chef! Wonder what he puts in his guacamole? There are so many variations; I imagine his recipe reflects his personality.🙂

      I loved Jorge’s answers. Haven’t interviewed anyone yet who said “the whole kitchen is a cooking poem.” He absolutely said everything there is to say!


    1. Yes, it sounds perfect for them. They’ll love guacamole even more if they make it themselves! The book contains a very simple, basic recipe for it. You can always add tomatoes, onions, etc., according to preference.


  8. A delicious serving for this Poetry Friday, Jama! What a warm and delightful person Argueta is. I loved this memory:
    “I remember our faces shrinking with the lemon, mostly I remember the green avocado laughs printed on our faces.”
    There’s a poem hiding there, I think!


    1. I love that memory, too🙂. He grew up poor, but was so rich with friends and family. His grandmother was amazing — great interview with him at Paper Tigers.


  9. What a fantastic book. I don’t know how I missed Argueta all this time, but the illustrations are wonderful. And truly, if you can get kids interested in food and cooking, they eat more healthful foods and are less picky eaters.

    When I was a kid my mom would put avocados in our salads. I don’t remember eating my first one.🙂.


    1. I can’t remember eating my first avocado either, only that I used to sprinkle a little sugar on them (which I never do now). I’m all for getting kids interested in cooking at a young age — when they participate in preparation, there’s a sense of pride and accomplishment, and as you say, interest in a wider variety of foods. Would be nice to see American kids eat something besides chicken nuggets and pizza.


  10. Wow!! Cooking poetry-who knew?? Jorge seems like a wonderful person-like when he is talking about growing and says, “I saw poetry all around me.”. Beautiful.


    1. These cooking books would be a great addition to any school library. The guacamole recipe is simple enough to make in the classroom since it doesn’t involve any stovetop cooking. And any of them would be great for International Days, etc.


  11. This cooking poem series is so incredibly cute! I’m trying to think of everyone I know who has children right now, so I can gift them one of these books… lovely interview as well🙂 I’ll never look at avocados the same way again (eating them up a tree?).


    1. Each of the books has a different illustrator, a variety of visual feasts.🙂 Definitely make nice gifts, maybe even with a few of the ingredients, or a kids’ apron.


    1. It’s a rare series — not only because they’re cooking poems, but because they’re bilingual. They make me want to learn Spanish so I can fully appreciate his work in their original form.


  12. What a lovely post! I adore avocados and eat them often. In salads, smoothies, salsas and of course, my daughters’ favorite– guacamole. I want some right now!😀

    This book looks absolutely charming.


  13. Jama, thank you for this! I am a big fan of guacamole, and lovelovelove poetry translations, so bilingual editions are especially joyful for me. My biggest complaint about avocados around here is that it is very hard to find them in the stores RIPE. When I want guacamole NOW. So hard to wait….


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